Blind Man with a Pistol


Turn Down Patriarchy

Your true task, as a son, is to reproduce every one of the enormities [committed by your father], but in attentuated form. You must become your father, but a paler, weaker version of him. The enormities go with the job, but close study will allow you to perform the job less well than it has previously been done, thus moving toward a golden age of decency, quiet, and calmed fevers. Your contribution will not be a small one, but “small” is one of the concepts you should shoot for. . . .Begin by whispering, in front of a mirror, for thirty minutes a day. Then tie your hands behind your back for thirty minutes a day, or get someone else to do this for you. Then, choose one of your most deeply held beliefs, such as the belief that your honors and awards have something to do with you, and abjure it. Friends will help you abjure it, and can be telephoned if you begin to backslide. You see the pattern, put it into practice. Fatherhood can be, if not conquered, at least “turned down” in this generation—by the combined efforts of all of us together. Rejoice.

“Manual for Sons.” Donald Barthelme, The Dead Father (1975). 270-271

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